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Publication Date : 14-05-2012
An increasing number of people in Western countries view China's influence in a favourable light, according to a BBC World Service poll published on Friday.
The percentage of people in the United Kingdom who view China's influence as positive grew from 38 per cent in 2011 to 57 per cent in 2012. Similar increases were reported in Australia (43 to 61 per cent), Canada (35 to 53 per cent) and Germany (24 to 42 per cent).
In the United States, the percentage of people holding negative views of China dropped from 51 per cent to 46 per cent during the same period, and the number of people holding positive views of the country increased from 42 to 46 per cent.
Fifty per cent of the people interviewed for the poll regard China as having a positive influence on the world, up 6 percentage points from 2011. The percentage of people who view China's influence as positive has increased in each of the last three years.
People from Africa, Asia and Latin American countries were more likely to have favourable opinions of China, while people in major Western countries tend to have negative opinions.
The survey was conducted for the BBC World Service by the international polling firm GlobeScan, its research partners across the world and the Programme on International Policy Attitudes at the University of Maryland in the United States.
A total of 24,090 people from 22 countries including the US, the UK, China and Egypt were interviewed face-to-face or by telephone between Dec 6, 2011 and Feb 17.
While favourable opinions of China have increased dramatically in Western countries, some of China's neighbours and emerging countries still hold negative opinions on the country's influence on the world.
According to the poll, 64 per cent of people in South Korea have a negative opinion of China, up 11 percentage points from 2011. One out of every two Japanese have negative views of the country, compared to just one out of 10 in 2011.
The trend is similar in emerging countries such as Brazil, where the percentage of people with favourable opinions of China dropped from 55 to 48 per cent, and Russia (52 to 46 per cent).
The more favourable image of China among Western countries shows that these countries need China more than ever to solve their economic problems, said Su Hao, an expert on international affairs with China Foreign Affairs University in Beijing.
"People from Western countries themselves have benefited from cheap Chinese products with relative good quality. The Chinese products are more appropriate to meet their needs," Su said.
"It is Chinese economic assistance to these countries and their closer economic ties with China that have improved China's popularity in these countries."
The negative opinions of China in neighbouring countries is due to maritime disputes and sensitive issues such as the confrontation between a Chinese captain and South Korean coastguard officers, Su added.
China's economy is more complementary with Western countries, and more competitive with emerging markets, which explains the decrease in positive views of China in some emerging countries, said Jin Canrong, an expert on international relations with Renmin University of China.
Both Su and Jin warned that the poll is based on people's perceptual knowledge of China and does not reflect the practical ties between China and relevant countries.